Castles & Manor Houses

Through centuries, Estonia has been dominated by foreign forces and their culture has left an imprint on the local architecture.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Nordic Crusades arrived to Estonia and shortly conquered and baptized the locals. To assure their position and govern over the conquered areas, the new ruling class, mainly German descendent, built 30 larger stone strongholds and approximately 500 simple wooden manor houses by the end of the 16th century.

The following Livonian war in the 16th century and the Great Nordic War in the 18th century left the country in ruins and most of the manorial architecture and castles were destroyed. The local nobility quickly started with the reconstruction. Following closely the changing European trends, the manors were constantly rebuilt and many present a unique mix of different styles.

Baroque style dominated from 1630s-1800 when some of the examples like Palmse, Vihula and Ahja manor were built.

Very few Renaissance elements can be found in Estonia – the finest examples are Purtse castle and Kiltsi, in ruins.

At the end of the 18th century (1770-1800) Classicist elements began to appear as seen at Roosna-Alliku, Kiltsi and Sagadi manors, 1800-1830 pure Classicism examples like Kolga, Riisipere and Penijõe were built.

From the 1840s up to the World War I Historicism was introduces here with many fine examples as Laitse, Alatskivi, Sangaste, Eivere, Pädaste and  Olustvere.

Contemporarily the lush Art Nouveau as seen in Taagepera, Neeruti and Kiiu manors and more modest Heimat-style as in Illuste and Mooste can also be noted at the beginning of the 20th century.

Generally a manor complex included different buildings - the main palace, situated on a smaller hill or in the centre of the complex; a granary to store the grain; a barn and stables for the horses; additional buildings for the workers and other animals; small temples and bridges that were added to the a decorative pond or a river and other green areas as parks and gardens.

At the beginning of the 20th century the Estonian territory counted over two thousand different manors, including 1245 knight manors, 108 church manors and around 600 manor dairy farms.

The revolution in 1905 and the following World War did great damage to Estonian manor complexes. With the end of the war and the announcement of independence, the power of the German nobility in Estonia was put to an end. In 1919, a land reform was carried out and all the properties of the Baltic nobility were alienated and divided into small local peasant households. The manor residences were transformed into schools, culture centres and other public institutions and became centres of social life. This, however, put a start to a gradual downfall of the manor complexes due to inappropriate use or lack of appropriate maintenance.

After the collapse of the Soviet rule, which had left the manor houses in a regrettable negligence, the Baltic German culture was officially acknowledged as part of Estonian rich history and national treasure and the remaining manor complexes were taken under the state protection. Today 400 knight manors have been reconstructed and preserved their original form, about 200 lie in ruins or have been completely rebuilt, and the rest are destroyed.

Discover Estonian manor houses, choose Manor Houses & Castles package

Palmse Manor

Palmse Manor house complex, located in the beautiful Lahemaa National Park and surrounded with forests and many naturally beautiful spots, is one of the biggest in Estonia. It was first mentioned in a written document in 1287 when it was under the tutelage of Tallinn's St Michael's nunnery. There have been several owners afterwards. The Baltic-German aristocratic family Pahlens, who ran the Baltic Railway Company, owned Palmse manor from 1677 to 1923. The current manor hall that was traditionally divided into the landlord’s and the landlady’s wings, was built in 1782-1785 by architect J.C. Mohr.

Different historians like to label the manor and the landscaping of the gardens French, Dutch and Italian, the latter also English and Chinese. In fact none of those categorisations is correct as the von der Pahlens wanted a tasteful, stylish, solid and modest indoors and outdoors environment where also local materials had been used.

Today the open-air museum manor exhibits parks, gardens, many adjacent buildings and features exhibitions, workshops, training centre, Palm House, wine cellar, romantic café and a tavern serving national dishes. The manor is a popular venue for exhibitions, theatre plays and concerts and the perfect location for training events, conferences, weddings and receptions. Free style English forest park has lakes and the river flowing through the park with bridges across riverbeds and romantic pavilions offer almost poetic and enchanting experience.  

 

Palmse Manor
Palmse Manor

SAGADI MANOR

At the end of the 17th century the Rococo manor was extended and was given a Classical façade. Neoclassical ceiling-pieces from the second half of the 19th century have been restored in the interior.

Today Sagadi hall exposits restored furniture and functions as a museum where also theatre plays and conferences take place.

The major complex has ten more buildings including grand gatehouse, and park with lake and islands. The restored cattle house accommodates a forestry museum, a hotel and a restaurant and there is a children school opened in the former distillery.

There is also a sign-posted nature trail that provides a convenient way of learning to know the interesting and variable environment, including traces of the activity of local wildlife (bear, elk, wild boar etc)

 

 

Vihula Manor

The earliest written source that refers to Vihula is dated 1501, but the Danish von Lode family, the oldest noble family in Estonia, probably established the manor already at the end of the 12th century. The manor has also been in the hands of the Weckebrod and the Helffreich families, however, the most important owner has been the Schubert family, which descended from Württemberg in Germany and owned the manor for more than two centuries.

A charming 16th century manor estate with two main buildings and 25 other historical buildings on 50 hectares of beautiful parkland alongside the idyllic river has recently been fully restored. The luxurious manor resort has preserved the historical authenticity of each building and of the estate as a whole.

The historical atmosphere has been enhanced by details carring the heritage from the previous centuries, such as steep narrow staircases, wooden floorboards, ornamented ceilings, original fireplaces, large bright windows and handsome façades. These authentic furnishings are stylishly combined with bright walls, open spaces, Scandinavian furniture and design and all the modern conveniences that can be expected from a contemporary luxurious resort.

Vihula offers a perfect escape from the bustling life of the city and a supremely comfortable and luxurious place to stay. One can enjoy Monet style waterlillies experience on the tiny boat trip on the lake, afternoon tea in the romantic Tea House with picturesque views to the river and islands, taste some local gourmet delicacies, pamper oneself with chocolate massage in modern spa, enjoy chamber music concert in the Park Pavilion, experience the amazing scenery of forests and seaside on horse carriage tour or take part in other activities.

Vihula Manor
Vihula Manor

Alatskivi Castle

Alatskivi is undoubtedly one of the most aristocratic castles in the Baltic countries. The manor was purchased by Otto Heinrich von Stackelberg in 1753, but got its present appearance of a Neo-Gothic articulated castle when it passed to Arved von Nolcken who completed the castle in 1885. Having returned from a trip to Scotland, von Nolcken was fascinated with the architecture there, especially with the royal Balmoral castle, which was the main inspiration for Alatskivi castle. The castle is surrounded by a spacious park and an idyllic lake valley at the backdrop of the castle. 57 buildings and objects belonged to the manor ensemble in the 19th century, 41 of them are still in their original place now.

Today this completely renovated fairy tale castle houses the museum of Eduard Tubin - one of the most outstanding and renowned Estonian composers. Besides getting acquainted with some classical music, the complex also proposes different activities, exhibitions and workshops from role plays of dressing as noble family to glassmaking. There is also fancy restaurant serving Estonian and Scottish cuisine listing highly at the best authentically Estonian cuisine rankings. 

Alatskivi Castle

Pädaste Manor

 

The earliest written history of the lovely manor on the picture-postcard Muhu island dates back to 1566 when the King of Denmark handed the manor over to the von Knorr family in recognition of services rendered to the Danish Crown.

The origins, however, go back to the 14th century as evidenced by some of the ancient walls are still visible at the very heart of the house. In the latter part of the 19th century the house was enlarged considerably and given a new façade, hence the harmonious dimensions and clean lines which give the house it’s character today.

The last baron of the estate, Axel von Buxhoeveden had, as the Imperial Hunting Master an influential position at the court of Czar Nicholas II. Together with his wife Charlotte, heiress to the Siemens company, he brought a touch of worldly splendour to the sleepy Muhu Island.

The summers at Pädaste became cultural delights as Charlotte brought artists and musicians in her company when she moved with her entourage from St. Petersburg to Muhu for the summer.

Alexander took a special interest in landscaping and whenever he travelled abroad he would bring back rare species, they until today make up the beautiful variety at the park . Today the park and shoreline form part of a nature protection zone, which is well known for its biodiversity. It is the natural habitat to 23 species of rare orchids, while the bay is a favourite stopover location for migratory birds as geese, cranes, ducks and swans. Three breeding couples of the rare and majestic sea eagle nest nearby, the nightingale takes centre stage in the evenings of early June.

The completely renovated complex houses today a luxurious hotel, the finest in the Baltic countryside. The visitor can choose a suitable room or a suite, beautifully appointed with luxuriant fabrics, unobtrusive state-of-the-art technology and wonderful attention to detail in the Manor House, the Carriage House or in the Private Farm House, each of which carry their original character.

The award-winning restaurant Alexander serves innovative Nordic Islands’ Cuisine, respecting the seasons and using fresh ingredients of local farmers just like the spa, which proposes many treatments based on old Muhu herbal traditions with oils, crèmes and skin-spreads prepared with pure & natural ingredients of the highest quality.

Pädaste Manor
Pädaste Manor
Pädaste Manor

Taagepera Castle

Taagepera castle is a luxurious landmark situated near the Latvian border, more than 250 km from the capital. The legend says that the Scandinavian trolls helped to build this unusual Art Nouveau style castle as its architectural style resembles more Finnish national romanticism than Baltic building traditions.

The castle was built by the nobleman baron Hugo von Stryk in 1912. It is already at the monumental gate that one’s eye catches sight of the powerful 40-m high tower, numerous gables, balconies and sturdy chimneys. The legends say that Hugo von Stryck loved his wife very dearly and he wished she could admire both the sunrise and sunset, therefore ordered a tower high enough to guarantee the view. From the tower, Anna Sophie could also get an overview of the peasants working in the field. 

The exterior of the building is almost free of any symmetry. The extravagant, archaic approach of the Art Nouveau period is also reflected inside the castle. The interior is complemented by dark-tiled fireplaces. There are 75 different colour rooms each of them with its own name.

Taagepera castle park is one of the most bio diverse in Estonia. The park had many flowers and flowerbeds, thousands of different trees and bushes. Taagepera is a magic place - the castle stands in the ancient forest where the nature and legends take visitor to the mystery and poetry! 

Taagepera Castle

Sangaste Manor

Exceptional historicist style Sangaste Castle features magnificent ball halls, gothic-style foyer and English-style hunting hall. Although mentioned already in the 13th century, it was the last lord of the manor Friedrich von Berg, who decided to modify the existing building and ordered a lift-up following the example of castles he had seen in England, especially the royal palaces in Windsor and Balmoral.

Von Berg was known as a famous breeder. At the end of the 19th century he cultivated the rye type “Sangaste”, which is very suitable for local climate conditions. He was also one of the first car owners in Livonia.

According to legend, the castle owes its existence to an insult the local count had received when attempting to wed a young English lady as her father objected to giving his daughter away to "some Russian savage". True or not, the construction work started in 1874, bricks were made in the manor, the granite was brought from Finland and wood with other materials from Germany and Riga. The different shapes of towers create the castle's scenic silhouette. Crow-step gables, dormers and uneven surface of the façade make up a diverse richly segmented building.

The new castle was similar to Windsor palace on the outside, but a variety of different styles were used inside - Gothic, Korintos, Spanish, Roman and English. Each room has different windows.  Initially the castle had 99 rooms, because only the tsar was allowed to have more than a hundred rooms.

Today the manor is a beloved place for different events and weddings. It has undergone a complete restoration work and is now offering again possibilities for accommodation in this majestic estate in the middle of the beautiful landscape of Southern-Estonia.

Sangaste Manor

Kau Manor

Kau or Kõue in Estonia is one of the oldest manors in Estonia with an inspiringly rich history. This wonderful manor was renovated by Erik Kross - the son of Estonian famous intellectuals and writers Jaan Kross and Ellen Niit.

The first known owner of the manor was a vassal of the Danish King Gerhardus de Kouwe (Gerhard from Kau) and the manor has been a home of warriors, artists, explorers and statesmen ever since. A renowned warlord Heinrich Dücker owned Kau during the Livonian War in the 1560s. The Head of the Estonian Noble Corporation Tonnies Wrangell lived here in the end of 16th century. In the early 19th century Kau was the home to a world famous explorer Otto von Kotzebue.

Kau manor features different architectural styles, from medieval cellars to Baroque decorations and classical appearance that are decorated with an impeccable taste and sense of artistic style that will make even the pickiest interior designer green with envy. Interiors feature carefully selected antique furniture, elegant staircases, impressive fireplaces and stoves, original beams, and fine art.

The manor house historical park contains three ponds, sculpted gardens, parking, a walking path through the parkland, a horse riding terrain and a tennis court. The freshly renovated manor complex where often different art-, and cultural events take place, houses also Baltic German cultural library and a concert hall.

Today the manor complex houses a luxurious hotel, proposing four spacious suites and seven deluxe double rooms, all furnished with the upmost care and attention to detail; no two rooms are alike. All rooms have spectacular views over the manor’s park and garden. The Coach House has been renovated meticulously and now houses nine well-appointed guest rooms. Each room has a private balcony overlooking the park. On the ground floor of the Coach House, there are two gallery rooms, a sauna, and an indoor pool. In the future, the Coach House will be used to house artists in residence.

The Kau manor grandiose restaurant "Eight Legs" with two prominent Estonian chefs serves innovative, local cuisine made with fresh ingredients from local farmers and greens from the Manor’s own garden. Enjoy the culinary delights in the gloriously proportioned, colorful, and unique room that open into a spacious summer terrace and offers sweeping views over the park.

Kau Manor
Kau Manor
Kau Manor